tv Q A CSPAN May 31, 2015 8:00pm-9:01pm EDT
announcer: tonight, queuing day with author david mccullough discussing his book on the wright brothers. then, queen elizabeth speaks of parliament. brian: this week, our guest is pulitzer prize winner david mccullough. out with his new book, the wright brothers. he talks about the personal stories of wilbur and orville wright, the roles their family played as the brothers experienced failures and successes, and a time. in which they lived as the race to achieve flight was at its peak. brian: i recently picked up the washington post and saw a review
of your book written by a woman and she says the magical account of their early adventures, the wright brothers -- enhanced by correspondences, written records, and his deep understanding of the country shows us two boys from a remarkable family taught the world to fly. did you expect that from her? david: it is as if the pope blessed the book. to have her ride that review meant more than i can say. brian: heavy matter? david: have you i have met her but i don't know her. i did an interview with her mother. she was wonderful. delightful to talk to.
her mother is the one i interviewed. what i liked about what you just read is she set a remarkable family. they really were a remarkable family. the book is as much about the family. it is a family story, a family saga. brian: what was going on in the early 1900s when the wright brothers started? david: it was a fairly placid time. there were no major wars. we were prospering. the economy was good, very good. we had a sense of progress. and prosperity, and confidence i think. it was a very exciting time for
innovations of all kind inventions. the lightbulb, the elevator, the telephone, the mousetrap. thethe wright brothers were involved in all of that, felt that. it was a renaissance time, if you look upon innovation and invention as an art form. dayton had the most number of patents issued to citizens of the city on a per capita basis of any city in the country. dayton was hot. it was a silicon valley of the time. they were in the midst of something exciting. i think people felt americans could do anything. we were about to build the panama canal. the most momentous undertaking our country has ever taken upon itself. and that was good, the future
looks good. nobody realized that world war i was over the horizon. brian: in order to do your research for this book, where did you have to go? david: as you know iowa's gober things happen. i had to go to kitty hawk, dayton, the ford museum at dearborn michigan where their bicycle shop is located. i had to go to paris, but a place an important part of the story. i said to myself, you have got to go to paris. i had to go to la mans, where wilbur demonstrated what the plane could do. and then down to peaux, near the spanish border with the pyrenees in the distance.
i benefited from each and every one of those places in my sense of what they did and where they were and so forth. the most important place of all was the house, inside that house, which is exactly as it was, because when they turned it over to a museum, orville supervised it. it was then under his agreement and his sense of what it should look like. you walk in the door and it is exactly as it was. the idea that out of this little house -- had no running water indoor plumbing, electricity telephone, came this phenomenal idea, these two phenomenal people, who changed the world. but what you do see in the house
, in spite of the absence of those other things, are lots of books. and that is a big part of their story. their father insisted they read everything, read fiction, read history, natural history philosophy. and he insisted that they learn to use the english language properly. brian: how much education to the wright brothers have? david: formal education ended with high school -- they didn't even graduate. that was largely because their father always encouraged them if they had an interesting project to work on. he said, stay home and do that. wilbur without any question, was a genius. orville was very bright and inventive, clever mechanically, but he didn't have the reach of mind that wilbur had. wilbur was a natural leader, and he was the older brother, the
boss. their sister was also very bright. one of the pleasures of this book has been able to bring her out of the shadows because she belongs front and center. she was -- i'm not sure it would have turned out the way it did had it not been for her. i love to give credit where credit is overdue, and she deserves a lot of credit. when i started, i didn't know anything -- much more than all of us learned in high school. they were from ohio, they had a bicycle shop, and invented the airplane. but it is much, much more than that. brian: your research assistant on many of these books, mike hill was here a couple years ago to talk about his book, and when he was here, i asked him about what your book was about.
let's watch this and see if you lived up to your promise. [laughter] [video clip] brian: he is working on another book? >> he is. i talk to him before i came on here, and he said it was ok to tell you. the way it is looking now is that the narrative arc of the book would start in the early age of infancy with the wright brothers doing some of their early tests outside paris in 1908-1909. as aviation exploded, not only as a technological instrument but also as a cultural icon take that through world war i and the aviators who fought overseas and how aviation converted into this instrument of war, and then take it forward
out of the war into the 1920's, and the ark would taper off with charles bloomberg landing in paris. -- charles lindbergh landing in paris. brian: did you do that? david: no. [laughter] david: there is a huge collection of letters in the library of congress, professional letters, which number well over 1000. and diaries, and large books, and technical books, in their own handwriting. in addition, there are well over 1000 private family correspondences, letters written strictly for each other in the family. since they wrote superbly, the use of the english language is humbling. the father insisted they know how to ride a good letter, give a good talk. these letters are long and never
boring. and you hear all about what is on their minds, what they think is funny, what they are having trouble with. catherine could get pretty feisty -- the sister. wrathy, she said, i can be wrathy. they were all very funny. once we got into these letters, i said, this is the book. my book begins in 1910 -- my book ends in 1910. that is wonderfully, graphically illustrated by the fact that until then, they had refused ever to ride together in a plane because there was always the chance they could get killed. every time they went up, they do this. their courage was phenomenal. they would not ride together
because of one of them got killed, they want to the other to be around to carry on with the mission. in 1910, they decided they would put on an exhibition for the people of dayton at the cow pasture where they did a lot of their experimental work. and so they invited the town to come out and watch, and the two of them got an a plane together which was symbolically saying we have done will be set out to do. a lot of people there understood exactly the symbolism of that moment. brian: here's some video from the first flight, 1903. at kitty hawk, about 55 seconds. [video clip] >> and 19 at 3, 2 bicycle mechanics felt they had a heavier than air machine that could carry a man aloft in controlled flight. wilbur and orville wright, after
four years of experimentation gave the glider and 12 horsepower engine which they designed themselves. the engine powered to push her-type propellers. december 17, 1903 was a windy day at kitty hawk, north carolina. by the toss of the coin, orville won a chance to become the first man in history to fly under power. the first flight covering a distance of 120 feet, lasted only 12 seconds. four flights were made that day and the last flight covered 852 feet and 59 seconds. brian: did you say that that plane was never used again? david: the end of that film, that was not the plane that flew a kitty hawk, that is the one that was developed -- the plaintiff with a kitty hawk was not a practical plan, all the really did was take off and land. they didn't know how to bank and turn.
it wasn't until 1905 that they perfected that kind of plane which is one that was shown in the latter part of that film. that is flying at huffman prairies. the thing was never used again. brian: where is it now? david: it was reconstructed and is now in the smithsonian. brian: what kind of competition was there back then to be the first people flying an airplane? david: there was a lot of experimentation going on but no real competition, they were ahead of everybody. most of all of that was in france, not here. there is a claim that amending connecticut flew first, but there is no evidence or proof. if he did fly, he never flew again. when he went to fly a plane he
built, it would apply. even his own family said he never flew. in france, it was taken rather seriously. when finally the time came when wilbur went to france to demonstrate what he had achieved , all the french aviator said, we are but children, they are way ahead of us. that first demonstration took place on the eighth day of the eighth month of 1908, at le mans, farance. the astonishment was beyond anything anyone can remember. tens of thousands of people were coming to watch them fly. the whole world knew that the airplane was a real event. that man could fly. the wright brothers instantly became two of the most famous people on earth. brian: this is at le mans
france. [video clip] >> his flights on the continent attracted the president of france, as well as the kings of england, spain, and italy. to wilbur, it was endless work. in addition to acting as a ground crew, he was a mechanic and salesman. a team pulled the plane across the runway on a grassy field. the flying machine was swung into position facing the wind. to provide thrust for the takeoff, they developed a catapult. afterwilbur and his passenger, a french journalist, took seats on the lower wing embraced and sells for an exciting ride.
-- and braced themselves for and exciting ride. he convinced europe, but no sales. brian: convinced but no sale. who was trying to sell to whom? david: theoretically, the french army was going to buy the planes. i had never seen that thome before, that is terrific. there are several things i notice ride away, i read that he walked very fast and he did. he always knew where he was going. he meant business, wilbur. orville had had a crash in the united states at fort myer. he came over and eventually to france, but he was walking on a cane and could not fly. all the demonstrations in france, which were numerous
andrew huge crowds, were all conducted by wilbur. the french appreciated it, where is our government did not. our government took no interest until after he became such a big sensation in europe. the newspapers in dayton ohio wouldn't even sent reporters set to watch what these fellows were doing eight miles out of town. one of the editors later on was asked, how could you have just said in here and ignored that? the man said, i don't know, i guess we were just plain stupid. there was a fixed notion that man cannot fly. they refused to believe it, even when it was happening literally under their noses. brian: back to what you said
about fort myers and the crash what is that story? how bad was a hurt? david: it was a mechanical failure, it wasn't the fault of the pilot. they dove straight down into the ground from about 75 feet. a young army lieutenant who was flying with him was killed. the first aviation fatality ever. wilbur was very badly hurt his leg broken in two places, his ribs sprained. he was also badly damaged psychologically. very shaken up and very unsure of himself. katherine, back in ohio, was a high school latin teacher, got word that this happened. she called the school principal, said she was taking an
indefinite leave of absence and in and that two hours, had packed and was on the next train that day. came here, stated fort myers in a hospital with him for at least one month. and saw to it that his care was the best as possible. but also, trying to give him encouragement and spirit to come back to himself. i think, in some ways, she saved his life. he not only recovered, so that he was able to walk again, but to fly again. he came back. he said, no, it has to be there. he not only got back on the horse, he got back on the same course in the same place, and he
proceeded to break records flying superbly. brian: as you know, out here with the cia is located, and down in the south part of virginia is langley air force base. the reason i bring it up is the langley name was big back there. you cried about him in your book and you make the point that wilbur and orville wright did this thing on private money, and that langley had federal money and it didn't work. david: wilbur once said there are two ways to train a wild horse. one of them is to sit on offense -- sit on a fence take notes then wright a papwrite a paper on how you train a horse. the other ways to get on a horse
and ride, and that is how they went about their project. langley sat on the fence and watched the horse. samuel langley was the head of the smithsonian institution. he was a brilliant scientist, a man of great importance. ran an observatory in western pennsylvania before he became secretary of the smithsonian. he was avidly interested in aviation and he built this giant contraption -- it looked like a giant bug of some kind -- and it took off and just went up and open to the potomac river. brian: was anybody on it? david: yes. not langley, but somebody went up. there are people who defend langley. nonetheless, it it did fail. and they put 70,000 dollars into
it, and that was a lot of money in those days, a hell of a lot of public money, smithsonian money, for nothing. the wright brothers built their plane, travel back-and-forth to kitty hawk covering all of the expenses themselves, and did it for less than $1000 on their own. they had no financial help from anybody, no foundation, no university, no government pension. it was all savings from their rather modest income they got from their bicycle business. brian: how many bikes did they sell? david: in a good year, 50 or so. and they made them themselves. in a little shop that is still there in dearborn, michigan. brian: did they move that physically, the shop?
david: the ford museum at dearborn is a historic building. in some ways, it is too bad that it was taken away from hawthorne street in dayton. on the other hand, it might not have survived. as it was, it is still there exactly as it was. brian: i want to bring this up again, i want to show video of that attempt or the lieutenant was killed. and then, put into perspective why langley was able to get the money to build a plane and the wright brothers couldn't get the government interested. [video clip] >> they signed a contract on february 10, 1908. 200 days later, they delivered the wright flyer to fort myer, virginia, where flight testing began. there will several setbacks, including a crash which required
the construction of a new plane. the crash took the life of lieutenant thomas selfridge, who was flying as orville's passenger. he became the first aviation fatality. orville sustained severe injuries. brian: why were they in fort myers? david: demonstrating for the government what they could do. brian: how did they get to do that? david: they were invited finally by the government to do it after what happened in france sunk in here. they really were demonstrating for the war department, for the military, as they were in france. there was little interest as of that point in the future of passenger transportation. it was thought that, for a war for an army or a military
campaign, would be used primarily for reconnaissance and for sending messages rapidly. the idea that it would be a weapon had been in many heads. -- had not been in many heads. brian: what is your technique? where did you read this? david: at home. brian: did you give up your house? david: we decided we were going up enough to have an apartment in boston. part of it was written there, in part was written on the vineyard in a shed, which to me is world headquarters, where i have written so many of my books. brian: had you teach yourself the story? had you go about it? david: in our line of work, we
have primary and secondary sources. a secondary sources are books or articles that have been written in the last 50 years or so. we start with those. as soon as you can you get into the primary sources, which are the letters and diaries in a newspaper articles and testimony taken at the time. the real things that were written in a time, and you just soak yourself in it. and then you start writing. as you write, you realize how many questions keep arising because you don't have the answers, and then you have to look for the answers. sometimes, you really hit it you hit something that nobody has found before, and that is exciting. with this book, it was the mystery of who it was that hit wilbur in the teeth with a hockey stick, knocked out all of
his upper teeth when he was 18 and sent him into a spell of depression, a self-imposed seclusion in his house for three years. was not able to go to college. he wants to go to yale, instead he stated home, very seldom ever went out, reading. and providing himself with a liberal arts education of a kind most people would dream of having all on his own. with the help of his father and the local public library. it swerved the path of his life in a way that no one ever had any way of anticipating. so the question was, who hit him? was it an accident or was it intentional? and i found out. reading his father's diary.
in an entry written long after wilbur died. it turned out it was a boy who was known as the neighborhood bully, and his name was oliver howe and he then later on became one of the most notorious murderers in the history of ohio . killed his mother, his father, his brother, and an estimated 12 others. you read the story of this boy. his family was very poor, and he had no money to spend on dentistry. and he had rotting teeth and intense pain. and he worked as a clerk in a drugstore, and the druggist gave him painkillers, which in those days, where cocaine pills. and he became addicted to
cocaine, as one does, and alcohol, and had to be institutionalized. when he got out, he went on his murder binge. he was executed in 1906. so, wilbur was gone by the time the bishop was willing to set the record straight in his diary. and all ofi think it is very important because there is a tendency to see this charming little street where the wrights grew up, and their father was an admirable man, and a sister, and how much education counted. it was kind of a norman rockwell setting. just around the corner was this very tragic story of a boy who went bad if anybody could ever
imagine somebody going back. brian: had you find that? david: it was in the bishop's diary. brian: did you find a parody the whole diary? david: it has been published, but nobody has ever read that far, i don't know why. we did the research. we did the digging on the murderer, and came up with all kinds of material, as one would find of this notorious murderer. the weather he hit will bring tension of the or are accidentally, we still don't know. brian: i have another clip i want to show you, one of my favorites from my interview with mike. [video clip] >> one thing that david tommy was to engage archivists and librarians in the process. tell them what you are doing. because i've heard a lot of
stories from archivists that authors and historians would come in, very focused on what they want to do. the things we found just by talking to archivists is pretty remarkable. brian: how do you know in david mccullough is mad? angry? irritated? [laughter] michael: you don't. david: i don't get mad. i get frustrated sometimes, and i get impatient and i think your capacity for patients diminishes with age because, you know, time is running out. you don't want to waste any time. but i am so glad he made a point about the archivists and the librarians and the immense help they are.
every single person that i give credit to in the acknowledgments in my book is somebody who has done something a very great value for my work. i think that one of the more obvious lessons of history is almost nothing of any consequence is accomplished in isolation, i the individual. it is a joint effort. certainly this kind of scholarship is always a joint effort. i have had a librarian or an archivist say to me, remember would you were in here one year ago and you were looking -- but i found it. sometimes, it can be very exciting material. brian: the wright brothers. when you cited to learn what they were like, what you find? what would they be like if they were sitting here talking? david: they could talk to
you about almost anything. wilbur loved architecture, and wrote these letters from paris describing the great french architecture, particularly gothic architecture, that he was so overwhelmed by. to me, he doesn't say this but i can't help feel -- gothic architecture is reaching for the skies, reaching upward, just what he wanted to do. it was his form of a cathedral. he was very interested in painting. at every chance, he will go to the louvre, to spend hours looking at paintings. he wrote these delightful letters home to his sister -- or his father -- about it. they loved music. they loved books. nathaniel hawthorne was
orville's favorite writer. katherine loved sir walter scott. on one of her birth is, the brothers gave her a bust of sir walter scott. here are the people living in a small house in ohio, no electricity, and they are giving a bust of a great english literary giant to their sister for a birthday present. there is a lot of hope in that. i think what i would like to get to know even more, is the sense of purpose that they had. it sounds a combat pun, but high purpose, not something ordinary. big ideas. nothing was going to stop them. brian: in december 1903, how old are they?
david: orville was in his late 30's, in wilbur was in his 40's. brian: when they were starting how old are they? david: they got going in 1899. wilbur wood has been in his 30's, orville might have already -- i have to do the math. brian: what is the difference is between the ages? david: 4.5 years. katherine in orville were closest in age. wilbur and orville could fight like dogs. by the end of the argument, they would switch sides. it was a riot. arguing was their way of working problems out. as charlie taylor said, they were not mad at each other, they were just trying to get to the
answer and they had different ideas of how to get to it and that is one of the ways they would get to it. brian: there is another name chanute air force base in illinois. you write about a guy named chanute. david: he was born in france and came to america. he was one of the preeminent civil engineers of his day, a great bridge builder, a railroad builder, who took an active interest in flight. in particularly, gliding. it begins with gliding. like langley, chanute would never try himself, he had somebody else do that. the one who did do a lot of gliding and was really the pioneer of gliding was -- and he was killed. brian: we have some video of
that, let's watch. [video clip] >> when you look at this picture, you can see one of the great problems he faced he was able to build wings that would lift the weight of his glider into the air. one of the important contributions that he makes are to be found in photographs like this, and people around the world saw pictures of this guy in the air like this, you could no longer doubt that the age of flight was about to don. but when you look at this picture, you can see his problem. he has been flying along, coming toward us, and a gust of wind perhaps has struck his writing wing and lifted it. the only way he has to control his glider is to swing his own weight to that side of the airplane. brian: who was that?
david: i don't know. he is hanging from the glider, and he cannot control it sufficiently. they saw that that was a problem. tom crouch is a leading authority on the history of aviation, he is a curator of aviation at the smithsonian. but wonderful man who was very helpful to me. what the wright brothers developed was what they called wing warping. they arrived at that solution by studying birds. in other words, birds that could get in the air and then they just ride the wind. they don't flap their wings. they would watch these birds by the hour in dayton, but even
more so when they got down to kitty hawk, where the soaring birds were in multitudes, particularly the gannett, which is a soaring seabird. i would like to redo read yopu iu a line. john daniel was a local guy in kitty hawk who, like many of the people there, thought they were crazy. " we couldn't help thinking they were just a pair of poor nuts. they would stand on the beach for hours at a time, just looking at this eagles, flying, soaring, dipping. they would watch those gannets imitate their movements with
their wings and arms and hands. we thought they were playing crazy. we just had to admire the way they can move their arms and that there elbows up and down which way, just like the gannets ." years later, they said learning the secret of flight from a bird was like learning magic from a magician. brian: isn't that great? here are the greatest minds in all history, and a solved it by watching the soaring birds. david: by doing so, they invented wing warping, which would twist the wing and that way they could bank and turn. it is all about equilibrium. so is writing a bicycle.
-- so is riding a bicycle. in order to do it, you have to get on the wind in order to ride the wind. and they knew that. and that is where they made their progress in a way that nobody else had. brian: going back to the video showing otto lilienthal, died in 1894, how much were they paying attention? david: it was is death and obituary that started with other reading about the subject. brian: we have video from the wright brothers museum in dayton. let's watch that. [video clip] >> the centerpiece of the park is the aviation center. the wright brothers aviation center is a building complex which consists of a replica of their bicycle shop, two galleries filled with artifacts and the centerpiece is wright
hall, which is a building specifically built to house the 1905 wright glider. this was the third and final experimental plan they built and today survives is the second oldest of their airplanes. this airplane which orville wright considered the first track to gold airplane was constructed and flown in less than six years time between the time that they built their kite and success of this airplane. what is interesting to think about is that the wright flyer in kitty hawk flew four times -- just four times -- on one very historic day. they very much were the proof of concept of powered flight. the airplane behind me the 1905 wright flyer three, was capable of repeated takeoffs and landings, repeated flights of
notches for a few seconds of a the time, but upwards of 40 minutes by october, 1905. david: that is exactly wright. right. that plane is the beginning of aviation, much more than the one the fluid kitty hawk. that is a plain that they took to france to demonstrate to the world. it wasn't sufficient to them to just fly. they had to make it practical. when they came back from that first triumph, their mind wasn't done, armie nifty? -- aren't we nifty? they were always looking to the future. how could they achieve something that is an improvement. and they loved their work.
i think that is key to understanding. they had purpose and they loved their work, and, oh my, could they work. brian: wilbur died at age 45, of what? david: typhoid fever. it is like a greek tragedy. their father had worn them watch out for on pure water. always have pure water. we forget, that wasn't very long ago that you couldn't assume the water you were getting in any american city was pure. my granddaughter just came back from vietnam and thailand. i said to her, there is an old saying, when you travel abroad the country you learn the most about is your own. what do you come back home thankful for? what do you see is a blessing
that we have? she said, pure water. i think that the advances we have made in health and medicine that we all take for granted are what the future historians are going to see is the most important things that happened during our lifetime. brian: orville lived until 1948. david: yes. brian: what did he do after wilbur died and if they make any money? david: yes, they made money. they became wealthy, but not super wealthy. wilbur never lived to see the money come rolling in. in a big way -- orville and katherine did. wilbur and orville did not like business or legal battles. they were very unhappy with anything of that kind.
wilber got out of it pretty quickly -- orville, rather, got out of the quickly, and retired. he had always been rather reclusive and shy. he became increasingly so with age. brian: at what point do you decide this was only going to be about the wright brothers? david: i think when i began to sense how exceptional and how many lessons are to be learned from their story just as human beings. i would have been happy to read this book even if they had failed. so admirable is so much about how they went through life. they were modest, they were never affected or changed by success or fame. they were kind.
they never criticized in any way their rifles or any -- thereir rivals were anybody who criticized them. they were not in it for the money. they were loyal to their town, family. i see many similarities to harry truman in the wright brothers. they came from the middle west they grew up at the same time. they never went to college but they didn't let that stand in their way. but they also never stopped reading. most people have no idea that harry truman read latin for pleasure. the wright brothers were very much like that. and they would not give up. i think that is crucial. they would not give up.
they could get knocked down flat, they could be ridiculed, they could be criticized, they could crash -- literally crash. they could suddenly find that all the statistical data they were basing their designs on, which have been long-established as the god what about aviation physics was all wrong, and they had a soda liver again -- they didn't let that stop them. they wouldn't give up. and i think that is a hugely admirable point, and a very poor and point for all of us to know. how do you handle failure? do you lie there and cry? do you resort to self-pity? do you blame others? or do you get back up and go at what you have to do? brian: you talk about orville
and wilbur wright never marrying. their sister katherine got married at 52. what impact that have on her relationship with orville? david: it is a sad story. orville had when his family called " peculiar spells." he would get touchy and moody but they wouldn't last terribly long. this was the worst of his peculiar spells by far, and he inflicted terrible pain on his sister, whom he adored. when she announced that she wants to get married to a man she had known for a long time and she and the fellow served together on the board of directors of oberlin college. he refused to talk to her. he felt that he had been the
betrayed. when he heard that she was dying, he wasn't very quick to go to her bedside, but he eventually did. it is a sad regrettable and to an otherwise wonderful relationship between brother and sister. brian: we have some more video from wright state university, and it has photos of the fort myers crash. let's run that get your reaction. [video clip] >> one of the interesting things we have in the collection is this photograph album. this was put together by a reporter for the new york herald. he took lots of photographs of orville flying it fort myers in 1908 and 1909, when he was trying to stop the airplane to the army. it includes news paper clippings and original photographs
documenting all of the flights data for meyer, virginia. it includes lots of photographs of the crash that orville was in that killed his lieutenant copilot. when orville had that crash, his sister katherine left her teaching job anderson back to health. david: one of the things people said about your book -- a tiny bit of criticism that the story has been done so many times, i'm sure you read that, did you worry about that in this process? david: not one day. because, if anybody reads the book and thinks that the story has been done, they didn't really read much of the book, because there is an awful lot in this post that has not been done many times, including about katherine and who was wielding the hockey stick including the
interest that these brothers had in art and music and architecture and much of what happened in france, very little had written about it. we did research in french newspapers, french archives. we came up with a lot of new material. what i would like to say is that that collection of photographs at wright state university was a huge help to me and my writing of the book, because you can learn so much from the photographs. and the people at wright say university were immensely helpful, wonderful people. brian: how did you get your publisher to let you put in 81 photographs? david: because they love the photographs, too. and i know that these photographs are an immensely important part of the story, because the wright brothers loved photography.
they were, and many ways experimenting with photography, too. the two pictures of everything that they did. the easy answer to why would they do that is that they were inspired otto lilienthal by the took photos of everything that he did. they kept records of their machinery to protect themselves from people who might try to use them -- the patent -- as the run. their records are thorough in words, photographs diaries everything, in a way that i have never seen before. unbelievable. brian: had this country given them the credit for this that they deserve? david: yes, absolutely. once it happened. while they were mocked and
ignored for so long before they succeeded, after they succeeded oh, of course, this is terrific, these are our wonderful date and poise, welcome home, the whole boy shut down for two days to celebrate, it was wonderful. brian: i thought of you will be were celebrating the 70th anniversary of d-day and we had a flyover. i want to show you video of that flyover and see if you have any comment on that. [video clip] >> in the early days of the war after the allies decided that the british would conduct nighttime bombing raids on german targets and the americans would bomb during daylight hours, losses were horrific turn without escorts, the bombers in particular suffered losses to german fighters. by some estimates, the fatality rate was put in nearly 50%. that began to change with the
introduction of the p51 mustang as a long-range fighter. here, the mustangs. brian: what do you think about what has happened to aviation? david: i built model airplanes of those mustangs. i was a boy but all of this was happening, so to me, it was exciting in the extreme. we take it for granted that we are flying at 40,000 feet. a tremendous speeds. last year alone, at one airport chicago o'hare, 70 million people flew in and out of that airport.
70 million. i was on a flight to the west coast, and i was working on a chapter of my book on the plane. and i thought, how about this? in other words, it didn't happen all that long ago. he died in 1948, it would have been 15 years old, he might have been a nice old fellow around the corner. brian: you ended your book this way. on july 20, 1969, when neil armstrong stepped onto the moon, he carried with him a tribute to the wright brothers, a small swatch of the muslin from a wing of their 1903 flight.
when did you decide that would be the ending to your book? david: as soon as i read about it. the homage he is paying, his sense of history and indebtedness to the courage of those predecessors, those pioneers. these were pioneers. -years of the age we live in. to be, it is fascinating that neil armstrong also came from that same quarter of ohio, southwestern ohio. only 50 miles from where the wright brothers grew up, and that john glenn also came from ohio. whether that is coincidental or something in the water, i don't know. but i love that idea. never forget that the aluminum that was the genius of the motor they built in the first line came from pittsburgh. and the propeller of charles
bloomberg's plane is aluminum, and that came from pittsburgh. brian: do you plan to do another book? david: yes, i plan to keep writing. what it will be, i don't know. i'm waiting for mike hill to find some good idea. brian: our guest has been david mccullough. ♪ [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2015] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] announcer: q&a programs are available a c-span podcast. announcer: q&a is tender zone.
if you liked tonight's program, here are some others to watch. chris hatfield is the author of several books on the space station. also, michael hill, who, for two decades, work as a researcher for david mccullough. and coffee are arthur eric larson. watch those interviews anytime at c-span.org. announcer: on the next washington journal, niels l esniewski addresses expiring provisions of the patriot act. also, a look at recent moves by congress to limit the pensions of ex-presidents.
michael greenberger at the university of maryland center for health and homeland security talks about the cost of federal disaster relief and we will also take your calls and look for your comments on facebook and twitter. "washington journal" is live every day at 7:00 a.m. eastern on c-span. announcer: the new congressional directory is a handy guide to the 114th congress, with color photos of every house member and senator, plus a bio and contact information. also, district maps, a foldout map of capitol hill, and a look at congressional committees, the president's cabinet, federal agencies and governors. it is $13.95 plus shipping and handling available on the c-span store. announcer: on wednesday, queen